SAINT PETERSBURG, October 26, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was personally present at a St. Petersburg airport on October 20 to receive an Orthodox relic of the Virgin Mary from Greek monks bringing it from the Vatoped Monastery on Mount Athos.
The relic, which is believed to be a belt worn by Mary, the mother of Jesus, is also believed to be associated with miraculous restorations of fertility.
The Belt of the Mother of God, as it is formally titled, was scheduled to remain for four days in St. Petersburg, after which it would be taken on a month-long tour of the country.
Russian Orthodox Church officials told the French Press Agency that the relic would also be taken to pregnancy centers where women considering abortion receive counseling.
Orthodox Christians, as well as Catholics and Coptics, believe that God performs miracles in association with objects used by saints.
Hundreds of women lined up to see the relic, and Orthodox priests performed a rite of veneration upon its arrival.
According to AsiaNews, the trip was organized by the head of the State Railways, Vladimir Yakunin, who explained, “One of the reasons why we asked the Vatoped Monastery to be able to bring the Sacred Belt to Russia is the demographic situation of our country. We hope this will help stimulate interest in the spiritual revival of our society and family values.”
As LifeSiteNews.com reported on Friday, the Russian Parliament voted recently to restrict abortion in most cases to the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, following decades of demographic decline.
The total population in Russia has fallen almost every year since 1992, totaling a 2.9% decrease. The Russian birthrate is at 1.4 children per couple, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. Lower average ages of death, especially for men, have also compounded the problem.